Despite last year’s efforts to “make blockchain real,” slow transaction volumes and regulatory concerns held many businesses back from adopting the technology. This year, software developments and proofs-of-concept will bring us closer to blockchain becoming a practical part of good business. A number of successes indicate that live trials are indeed imminent.

Software solutions

Enterprise-grade versions of open-source blockchain software have hit the market recently, including IBM Blockchain. Walmart, Kroger, and Nestlé have already used IBM Blockchain to launch a food-tracking network, and other solutions are on the way. R3 plans to follow suit with its own Corda platform called Enterprise Corda, already in use by several major companies.

Companies addressing interoperability

Businesses have legitimate concerns that investing in the wrong tech could mean limiting themselves and severely hampering their business opportunities. Integration and interoperability between blockchains will be a priority this year. For example, Interledger was created by Ripple to facilitate interoperability and has proven successful between seven different ledgers.

Swift has dominated the cross-border transfer market until now—but the developers of the Ripple payment protocol and exchange network are proving that a distributed ledger solution can decrease the cost of cross-border transfers by 60 percent. Global companies are sure to take notice of these efforts to expand the applications of blockchain technology.

Evolution of large companies

Nothing makes a new technology more real than some of the largest companies in the world investing in it. Last year, global shipping company Maersk teamed up with IBM to streamline their supply chain using blockchain technology. Other major companies taking advantage of the technology include Mercedes-Benz and Deloitte. The practical uses of blockchain are even catching the attention of law firms, as we previously reported in Digital Law: How blockchain modernizes legal operations

Confidence in cryptocurrencies

Companies are becoming more and more comfortable talking about and exploring their options with cryptocurrencies. Last year, IBM and Stellar began working together to explore the possibility of open blockchains in cross-border payments, and just recently, they launched Fabric Coin. Blockchain software technology company ConsenSys—made up of a consortium of startups—also launched a new cryptocurrency and are working with enterprises to control their own versions of the ethereum blockchain.

Expectations for enterprise blockchain this year are high—last year was a time of experiments and big ideas, and now is the time for significant commercial opportunities.

Image credit: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

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